SCEC Science Plan


The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) was founded as a Science & Technology Center on February 1, 1991, with joint funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS). SCEC graduated from the STC Program in 2002 and has been funded as a stand-alone center under cooperative agreements with both agencies in four consecutive phases: SCEC2, 1 Feb 2002 to 31 Jan 2007; SCEC3, 1 Feb 2007 to 31 Jan 2012; SCEC4, 1 Feb 2012 to 31 Jan 2017; and SCEC5, 1 May 2017 to 30 Apr 2022. SCEC involves over 1,000 scientists at more than 60 institutions in its research program. SCEC’s research program is investigator-driven and open to anyone who is willing to submit a qualified project plan for peer review. SCEC funding supports research and education in seismology, tectonic geodesy, earthquake geology, computational science, and many interdisciplinary studies in earthquake science.

The core funding is allocated through an annual planning process that involves input from the entire SCEC community, as well as counsel from an external Advisory Council and the sponsoring agencies. A SCEC Science Plan is released each fall, which solicits proposals from individuals and groups to participate in the SCEC research program for the following year. Every year, more than 150-175 proposals are submitted to SCEC. These projects involve over 200 distinct investigators and many more graduate students and other early career scientists. Every proposal is reviewed and about 80 subawards are executed on an annual basis (each project typically ranging from $10,000 to $35,000). About two-thirds of the SCEC science budget goes to students and early-career scientists engaged in research.

Questions not answered in the Science Plan? Email proposals[at]
Questions about the online SCEC Proposal System? Email web[at]


Investigator Eligibility

Proposals can be submitted by eligible Principal Investigators (PIs) from U.S. academic institutions and U.S. private corporations.

SCEC rarely provides support to foreign institutions. Collaborative projects involving U.S. and foreign organizations will be considered, provided funding is requested only for the U.S. portion of the collaborative effort.

Collaborative proposals with investigators from the U.S. Geological Survey are encouraged. USGS employees should submit requests for support through USGS channels.

Any person with an overdue project report (for prior SCEC-funded awards) at the time of the proposal deadline will not be allowed to submit a new or continuation proposal as a PI or co-PI.

Proposal Due Date

The deadline date is November 15, 2018 (5:00pm Pacific Time). Late proposals will not be accepted.

How to Submit Proposals

Every investigator listed on the proposal must have a registered account on, with current contact information and profile information updated. Proposals must be submitted through the SCEC Proposal System. SCEC does not require that proposals be formally signed by institutional representatives at this stage; however, official documents including a signed letter of intent will be required within 30 days of award notification.

Project Duration

The proposed project period should be 1-year duration (starting February 1, 2019 and ending January 31, 2020).

SCEC involves over 1,000 scientists at more than 60 institutions in its research program. The SCEC research program is investigator-driven and open to anyone who is willing to submit a qualified project plan for peer review. The core resources are allocated through an annual planning process, so the roster changes constantly as new people and institutions become involved in the SCEC research collaboration. This annual review of the research program (and associated subcontracts) allows SCEC to drive and change the direction of research as needed to meet the program goals. The fact that this is done on an annual basis with so many people and institutions involved is a unique characteristic of SCEC. Therefore, every effort is made to ensure projects funded through the annual process are for 1-year duration only.


Proposal Contents

Every proposal submitted must include all of the contents listed below. Proposals must be received through the online system by the due date, with all required information, to be considered complete. Incomplete proposals may be rejected and returned without comment.

1. Cover Page. The proposal cover page should include all the following information, which will be required when submitting the proposal online:

  • Project Title, Principal Investigator(s), and Institutional Affiliation(s)
  • Total Amount of Request on Proposal, Amount of Request per Investigator
  • Proposal Category (see Section 3)
  • Three SCEC science priorities, listed in ranked order, that the proposal addresses (e.g. P4.c, P3.d and P2.a; see Section 2).

2. Project Plan. In 5 pages maximum (including figures), describe the proposed project and how it relates to SCEC5 objectives and priorities (see Section 2). References are excluded from the 5-page limit.

  • Previous Support or Multiple Proposals. All proposals should include a section reporting on the PI(s) research results from projects previously-funded by SCEC, and/or how concurrent proposal submissions complement each other, if applicable. This section should emphasize how such efforts relate to, or distinguished themselves from, the current proposal. This section counts toward the 5-page limit.
  • Continuation Projects. If the proposed project is a continuation of a prior SCEC award, the project plan must include a 1-page summary of the research results obtained from that SCEC funding. This summary is counted towards the 5-page limit. Continuation proposals must have a section outlining how the proposed research relates to the SCEC5 science objectives.
  • Collaborative Proposals. The project plan may include one extra page per investigator to report recent results from previously-funded, related research.
  • NASA Collaborative Proposals with NASA Investigators. Collaborative proposals with investigators from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are encouraged. A limited number of proposals will form one side of a collaboration with NASA scientists (including JPL), who will be independently funded directly from NASA. Project plans for these proposals should specify their NASA partners, the collaborative scope of work, and the division of labor.
  • Technical Activity Proposals. TAG proposals should include a research coordination plan that sets a timetable for successful completion of TAG activities no later than the end of SCEC5. The research coordination plan is counted towards the 5-page limit.
  • Workshop Proposals. Workshop proposals that include travel support for international participants must clearly state how such participants are critical to the workshop.
  • SURE Intern Project Supplement. The project must include an “intern project” description (1 page maximum) if requesting support for a summer undergraduate intern. In the description briefly describe the project, location(s) where research will take place, the role of the intern in the project, the time span the intern will work on the project, and any specific skills or educational background required. The project description submitted will be used to recruit students and posted on the SCEC Internship website. This description is not included in the 5-page limit.
  • Transitions Program Proposals. The SCEC Transitions Program provides students and early-career scientists with resources and mentoring, particularly at major transitions in their educational and professional careers. The project plan should clearly articulate how the proposed activities will expand awareness of professional advancement opportunities and pathways and/or improve competency in earthquake research tools and techniques of the junior members of the SCEC community.

3. Budget and Budget Justification. Every proposal must include a budget table and budget justification for each institution requesting funding. The budgets should be constructed using NSF categories.

  • Budget Guidance. Typical SCEC awards range from $10,000 to $35,000. This is not intended to limit SCEC to a fixed award amount, nor to a specified number of awards, but rather to calibrate expectations for proposals written by SCEC investigators.
  • Field Research. Field investigations outside southern California may be considered, provided the proposed research demonstrates direct relevance to SCEC5 goals that are not achievable within the southern California natural laboratory.
  • Uniformity of Budget Information. For each organization requesting funding, the complete budget information must be entered through the online submission system. This information should also be included in the PDF uploaded at the time of proposal submission. While the SCEC Planning Committee evaluates all budget requests based on the standard NSF budget categories, funded proposals may be contracted on other bases (e.g., fixed-price milestones, direct stipend support, etc).
  • Salary Support. An investigator can receive no more than 1 month of summer salary support in any given year from all combined SCEC funded awards in that year. Research faculty (or similar personnel) whose salary is funded solely from external grants are exempted from this 1-month funding rule.
  • SCEC IT Support. Investigators on proposals that anticipate use of SCEC computational resources and/or help from SCEC software developers should consult with SCEC Special Projects leadership (Christine Goulet and Phil Maechling) for budget time support estimates and coordination planning.
  • International Travel Funding Support. Funding for international travel to participate in the SCEC activities will be considered, provided the proposal clearly states (a) how the investigators are critical to the project and (b) a plan for how the international participant’s institution will cost-share the anticipated travel expenses. The requested international funding support should not exceed $1,500 per person in the proposed budget.
  • Unallowable Direct Expenses. Under guidelines of the SCEC Cooperative Agreements and A-81 regulations, secretarial support and office supplies are not allowable as direct expenses.

4. Current and Pending Support. Accurate and up-to-date statements of current and pending support must be included for each Principal Investigator requesting funding on the proposal, following NSF guidelines. Proposals without a complete current and pending support statement may be rejected and returned without review.

  • Each investigator requesting funding must enter his/her current and pending support information through the online submission system. This information must also be included in the PDF uploaded at the time of proposal submission.
  • If identical or closely related work is also proposed to another institution (e.g., National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey) for funding, an explanation of the relationship of such work to this proposal should be provided through the online system as well as in the submitted PDF.
  • Workshop Proposals. Current and pending support information is not required from investigators on workshop proposals.